Not Quite Poached!

-Another new nest has been poached-

In early February, a new nesting event was reported by fishers and Alex made a site visit to evaluate the situation. The new nest was reported to be much further towards the southern end of the beach than any prior nesting activity. On approaching the site, two men were seen fleeing from the apparent nest location before the nesting activity could be confirmed or even to ascertain which species had come ashore the night before. On arrival at the site, attempts to dig up the nest and a hole was evident. It seemed likely from the available evidence that the nest had been poached.

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Fifty nine days later, at this southerly site on Manhame Beach, evidence of a hatchling emergence was surprising news. The nest that was thought to be raided the morning after it had been laid still remained and had survived several storm swells and tidal surges. Hatchling tracks fanned out of a small nest cone and heading almost directly to the ocean were present- great news! Two days after hatchling, Clare and I joined Alex, Tomas and Carlos from Dunes de Dovela with their clients, a young family to hike 3 km up the beach to excavate the nest and determine its success.

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The nest was dug out and at the top of the egg chamber, one remaining leatherback hatchling was uncovered. For Carlos, the touristic guide and resident of the nearest village, Dovela, this was his first time to ever see both the eggs of a sea turtle or an alive hatchling. Carlos has accompanied us and the rest of the Dunes de Dovela team throughout the nesting and hatchling season and helped to liase with fishermen about reporting nesting and poaching activities. He represents is a positive role model within his community and helps to encourage the Dovela community that they should protect and conserve their local sea turtles.

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The remaining contents of the nest were sorted into hatched and unhatched categories and the results tallied up. The nest contained 96 eggs of which 80.20% hatched however only 42.7% emerged successfully from the nest. The nest was very deep, 96cm below the beach surface and a large percentage of the eggs had incubated and survived to pipping stage but had not successfully emerged. Its thought that the recent cold and rainy ex-cyclonic weather combined with the microclimatic variables being influenced by nest depth may have attributed to the low emergence success. None the less, for a nest that was thought to be poached two months prior, 42 leatherback hatchlings made it to the ocean.

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We all watched as the remaining survivor of the nest, swiftly crawled down the beach in a direct line for the ocean. Large swells awaited the small leatherback and it took a few washes of the swash before it found its swimming rhythm and quickly disappeared into to blue.

On the return hike back, we were lucky to meet the village chief and head fisher, a self confessed turtle poacher from previous seasons. Chefe Roberto, happily greeted us and we explained where we were coming from. In a community meeting, held at the beginning of the nesting season, he was encouraged to confess that whilst turtles were previously poached and brought as an offering to him to distribute. He then continued to say that he recognises that there are laws in place to protect turtles and that he can see that the turtles now need help, a notion which seems to be slowly dispersing through other fishers within the community.

 

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